Tonight is the launch of the project to raise money for the charity Take Heart India, which teaches IT skills to blind and disabled people in India and helps them get skills that will employ them for the rest of their life, taking them out of the cycle of poverty. You can find out more about an LDNnudetech event to support them below, but I just want to say something first about startups, entrepreneurs and the Spirit of Punk. Yes.
This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week. This actually started out life as an initiative by the UK government, internally to the UK. But cleverly they have extended it globally and brought on partners. So all over the world there are events going on to promote the idea of entrepreneurship.
At the same time, governments all over the world are bailing out banks. Either that, or the banks are allowed to fail, taking startups and small businesses with them. It’s an impossible situation, but that’s what’s happening. Many say we are in for even more pain. Already millions are unemployed across the planet. None of this is going away anytime soon.
The answer lies, of course in giving people the ability to say, not “Gizza job“, but “I made a job for myself. I’m making a company, my own.” Setting alight in them the idea that they can creatively disrupt their circumstances to produce something new.
But, of course often startups require capital to just get going.
A couple of years ago the UK government disincentivised high net worth individuals from investing in startups, by removing a clause on rules governing capital gains tax. In the last year France has enacted a new law to incentivise wealthy people to invest in startups. The German government is known to be looking at copying the law, it has been so successful. In the UK? Not a whimper of such a law is being proposed. So far most of the talk has been about how wealthy people, potential Angel investors – who in the past were incentivised to stay in the UK and invest their money a great deal more flexibly than a bank ever could – are to be taxed even more.
There’s more. The government here used to have something known as the Small Firms Loan Guarantee – this used to allow banks to loan up to £250,000. The banks put in 30% and the Government underwrote the rest. It was simple to apply for, it just need sponsorship by a friendly bank.
The government converted into this into the The Enterprise Fund Guarantee. I’ve spoken to many entrepreneurs and they say things like “frankly, it’s impossible to get.“ These funds are meant to go up to £1 million – but you can imagine how few people are actually getting them in the current climate.
The irony is that the government-owned banks are now, anecdotally, the worse at funding startups.
We’re now back in an era which resembles the 1970s era of old, slow moving industries unable to come up with the answers for the population. We’re in a downturn era very similar to the same time when Punk Rock was born. Punk was creative disruption made very visible. And it gave rise literally to a New Wave of music.
How does all this relate to a calendar being sold for a technology charity which features semi-nude entrepreneurs from London? I’ll tell you how:
These people are the continuation of Punk Rock, because they represent creative disruption. Want me to spell it out? They don’t give a fuck. They think nothing of disrobing for a charity, whether other people think it’s shocking or not.
And that’s what startups are about: not caring that someone says you’re wrong and it’s not a good idea. Just getting on and doing something. And that’s what Punk was about. Picking up a guitar even though you couldn’t play.
These people are not saying – give us money for this charity. They are saying – we’re going to be creative about this. We’re going to do something which makes you look, and in doing so, see this charity. Check out how many pages there are on twitter for LDNnudetech.
I was reminded of this when attending a recent event by the British Computer Society, “The Chartered Institute for IT”. A, shall we say older, representative of theirs kept on going on about how people didn’t talk about “IT” enough and about how “IT” needed to be more recognised.
At the end I put my hand in the air and said, look, people are talking about TECH all the time, not “IT” – look at how much the media is obsessed with Facebook and Twitter. Look at how mainstream social media has become and how people now buy handsets based on Twitter and Facebook. That is ALL tech. The ‘problem’ for the BCS is that it’s not “traditional IT” and – unfortunately – it’s rarely coming from Britain.
“Tech” and tech startups are really the Punk response to the staid, corporate world of “IT”.
And guess where it’s coming from? It’s largely – at least in the last few years, and discounting Skype – coming from Silicon Valley, a place where they too don’t give a toss unless you are trying to change the world. The place where Hippies and Beatniks came from to shock America. Creative Disruption.
So tonight, those who want to go to the launch of this #LDnnudetech calendar, buy one and support their fellow techies in a less fortunate part of the world, will do so. Some of them even got a bit semi-naked for it. Ooooer. If you want to meet them then go to the Velvet Room at Sway in Covent Garden at 7pm. Here’s more:
At the same time there will be a Black Tie awards dinner across town in the Science Museum to celebrate the iAwards. Astoundingly this is the first ever awards for startup innovation in technology and science in the UK. You know who started it? James Caan, an entrepreneur and now a famous member of the BBC’s Dragons Den show. Do you know where James came from? A very poor part of London. Do you think he cared what people thought of him when he started out as an entrepreneur? No. He just did it.
P.S. I think I might start a band called The Tech Pistols. Who’s in?